Babies Developing 'Flat Heads' At Alarming Rate

Babies are developing flat head at an alarming rate according to doctors.

As the number of babies developing a flat spot on their skull grows so does the wait list for treatment.

There is currently a two month waiting list for treatment at a specialist clinic at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. It sees about 1,330 babies a year.

Flat head, also known as plagiocephaly, is an avoidable condition caused by prolonged pressure on the baby’s growing skull, flattening the back of the head.

In severe cases it can cause distorted facial features and a bulging forehead.

Physiotherapist Liz Williams said the current advice for parents doesn’t go far enough.

“Many new parents follow advice to ‘position’ their resting baby with their head on one side, then on the other side, when we need to encourage babies to be active, to move themselves by engaging with them from birth,” Williams said.

Research shows, babies who acquire a flat spot on their skull tend to have less developed head control.

“It is reasonable to expect infants to control their heads, especially to the mid-line and side to side with a ‘chin tuck’, by two to three months and to maintain their head against gravity by themselves when pulled up to a sitting position by four to five months”.

Plagiocephaly has become relatively common over the past 25 years, as Red Nose recommends sleeping babies on their back to combat Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Data from the Royal Children’s Hospital’s plagiocephaly clinic shows the babies it treats are, on average, seven months old.

But over half (54 percent) failed to meet pull-to-sit development guidelines for head control.

In a bid to reduce the number of cases, the hospital has developed a fact sheet on how to prevent problems from developing.

The new fact sheet advises:

  • Sleep baby on their back from birth, not on their tummy or side
  • Even newborn babies can move their head to each side by following their parents’ eyes or voice
  • From birth babies need both tummy time and face time, which can be on the floor
  • Babies' heads are heavy and need support
  • Tummy time can include when your baby is lying on you

Doctors say improved head control would enable babies to not get stuck on one side, reducing that prolonged pressure on one spot.